My boys actually love to read. They both read for pleasure and talk enthusiastically about their favourite authors. I’m very grateful for this. So I probably shouldn’t moan, but . . . some of the stuff they read is abysmal.
They own a lot of books, of course. They read lots of fact books and lots of novels. They have Roald Dahl, Michael Morpuergo, C. S. Lewis and Dick King Smith: all perfectly reasonable. I have managed to get Eldest to try a few of my old favourites: The Prisoner of Zenda, Around the World in Eighty Days and Treasure Island.
But, the really worrying stuff starts once we go to the library.
I won’t allow them to take books from the adult or the ‘teenage’ sections (you have to leave something to look forward to). So I hadn’t expected quite the problems we’ve had.
Why on earth are there so many disgusting books around for children?
I took the boys to the library today and this is one of the books that Middly chose:
Really? Did the world ever need a book called Fleabag Monkeyface?
I have two concerns about books like this.
Firstly, there’s the teaching potential. Are these books going to teach my boys crude language or bad behaviour?
Alright, to be fair, my boys know a lot about bad language already. That isn’t my biggest concern. Though, I think it is a concern for most parents!
Secondly, there’s the normalising effect. Seeing one another behave badly makes bad behaviour seem ‘normal’, which encourages similar behaviour. What if reading rude words and unpleasant behaviour makes that seem normal and encourages more of that?
We don’t need any encouragement to behave rudely in this house.
I am very aware of an attitude towards children – and, it seems to me, especially towards boys – that it doesn’t matter what they read ‘as long as they’re reading’. Personally, I cannot agree. There are only so many hours of reading, why encourage anyone, however young, to waste those hours on reading rubbish?
It does take an effort to read some books. I want the boys to be willing to make an effort for good writing.
I think it’s insulting and patronising to suggest that boys need to be tempted into reading by copious mention of bodily fluids. Boys are perfectly capable of enjoying adventure stories and making up their own gags about poo. As a grownup and a mummy, I feel it is my role to tut at the dramatic burping, not to join in. Eldest likes to giggle whenever he reads ‘but’ (because it sounds like ‘butt’), which is up to him. I don’t want a book to join in. If the grownups refuse to be grownups, where is the space for the boys to be boys?
I will admit that I’m a bit of a book snob. I’m not proud of it, and I don’t want to pass this trait on to the boys, which is why I let him take it out.
All my mum had to worry about was Enid Blyton and whether the books that I chose were ‘challenging’ enough. Bah!